Workers voted 65 per cent in favour of the new contract
By Diego Flammini
There will be no strike at a canola crush plant in Alberta.
Of the 140 employees the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 represents at the Richardson International canola crush plant in Lethbridge, 65 per cent (91 employees) voted on Feb. 1 and 2 in favour of ratifying the latest contract offer.
“I like seeing votes like this,” Chris O’Halloran, executive director and lead negotiator for the union, said in a Feb. 14 statement. “A 65 per cent acceptance shows that our members thought carefully about what was on the table.”
Workers in the plant had been working without a contract since the last one expired in August 2019.
Among the details in the new contract is across the board wage increases including full retroactivity:
- Sept 1, 2019 – 2.25%
- Sept 1, 2020 – 2.75%
- Sept 1, 2021 – 3%
- Sept 1, 2022 – 2.5%
- Sept 1, 2023 – 2.5%
- Sept 1, 2024 – 2.5%
This newly ratified agreement is retroactive to Sept.1, 2019, and runs until the end of September 2024.
Negotiations on this new agreement started in November 2021 when the union and the employer met to discuss multiple issues including overtime, new hire orientations and hours of work.
On December 20, UFCW Local 401 announced 79 per cent (110) members rejected Richardson’s first offer.
On Jan. 25, 2022, the union announced its negotiating committee endorsed Richardson’s second offer. If employees rejected this offer, the union prepared to proceed with a strike vote.
The 65 per cent acceptance vote sends a clear message to Richardson that more work is needed in the future, O’Halloran said.
The outcome of the vote “says to the (Richardson) that we were able to get it done this time, but they are on notice that they need to (be) better right off the bat next time,” he said in the Feb. 14 statement.
This is the second contract UFCW Local 401 helped negotiate in the ag sector within the last few months.
The union represented about 2,000 workers at the Cargill facility in High River, Alta. during those contract talks last year.
Cargill and the union reached an agreement days before a strike was to begin.
UFCW Local 401 will be involved in further contract negotiations this year.
The union represents about 2,500 workers at the JBS plant in Brooks, Alta.
Farms.com has contacted Richardson International for comment.